D.C. clergy pray for release of Alan Gross

Washington-area clergy joined an interfaith prayer service for the release of U.S. government contractor Alan Gross from a Cuban prison.

Tuesday’s service, organized by the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, was held as U.S. State Department officials in Cuba to attend meetings on migration were set to press for Gross’ freedom, the Washington Post reported.

Cuban authorities detained Gross on Dec. 3, 2009 on his way out of the country, saying he was a spy.

Gross’ family and State Department officials say he was in the country on a U.S. Agency for International Development contract to help the country’s Jewish community of about 1,500 to communicate with other Jewish communities through the Internet.

The main Jewish groups in Cuba have denied any contact with or knowledge of Gross or the program.

Cuban law prohibits bringing satellite phone equipment into the country without a permit. Gross has not been charged.

The service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Northwest Washington brought together Roman Catholic clergy as well as Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Protestant and other faiths.

“They all expressed the hope that by appealing to the Cuban government on humanitarian grounds, there might be some movement,” said Harvey Reiter, the president of the Greater Washington Jewish Community Relations Council, which helped organize the event.